Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nikon D800 vs. Nikon D7000 with a DX Lens

Nikon D800 vs. Nikon D7000 with a DX 35mm f1.8 Lens, Copyright 2012 Robert Giordano
Click image to enlarge

I just received my Nikon D800 a few days ago and I'm still learning all of its nuances. The D800 is a full frame camera, meaning the image sensor is the same size as 35mm film. If you attach a standard 35mm lens, you will get the same coverage that you would get on a 35mm film camera. This is nice. I can finally use my Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 lens to take wide angle pictures like I used to do with film. When I put my 24mm lens on my Nikon D7000, the image is cropped because the sensor is smaller. On the D7000, my 24mm lens becomes like a 36mm lens. Not so good if you want a wide angle shot. Nikon calls the D7000 a "DX" format camera while the D800 is called an "FX" or "Full Frame" format camera. All of my good old fashioned, 35mm lenses that I used to use on my film camera, are FX lenses. Some of the newer lenses that I bought for cameras like the D70, D90, D200, and D7000, are DX lenses. DX lenses use smaller glass elements because they're made for the smaller sensor cameras. If you put a DX lens on a 35mm film camera or a FX digital camera, the image from the lens won't always fill the whole frame. You'll see black around the edges of the image, known as vignetting.

When you put a DX lens on the Nikon D800, the camera automatically crops the image just like a DX camera. In other words, if you're using a DX lens, you'll see roughly the same thing on a D800 as you would on a D7000. If you take a picture with a DX lens on the D800, you'll get a 16 megapixel image, not a 36 megapixel one! Yes, you read that right. With a DX lens, the D800 might as well be a D7000 with a few extra features. But wait...

I'm pleased to tell you that you can turn off the DX crop feature!! Yes, you can go into the menus of the D800 and set it to take full, 36 megapixel images all the time, no matter what lens you stick on the camera. This is awesome. One of my favorite lenses is my DX 35mm f/1.8 lens. You can buy this lens brand new for less than $200, its super sharp, and its an f/1.8 lens! Ah, but its a DX lens. That's why its so cheap. Anywhere you look for this lens online, it will say something like, "DX lenses are NOT recommended for use with FX or Full Frame Cameras." I'm sorry, but rules in photography are meant to be broken. Don't tell me not to try my DX lenses on my FX camera! Thankfully, someone at Nikon knew there would be people like me out there and included the option to TURN OFF the DX crop!!

I set up a tripod on the Pompano Beach fishing pier and used my DX 35mm f/1.8 lens on both cameras. Both cameras were set to the same exposure and the images are unretouched. The inner image from the D7000 is the same image you get with the D800 and its DX crop feature turned on. When you turn off the DX crop on the D800, look what you get! Yes, there is some vignetting around the edges but is that so bad? Obviously it depends on what you're shooting but its nice to know I have the freedom to choose whether I want my images cropped in the camera or not.

Finally, the D800 gives me a third option, called the "1.2" crop, which is between the DX crop and full frame. I'm not sure where I would use it because I can always shoot full frame and just crop it later in Photoshop. Having options is always nice though. Kudos Nikon!

Nikon D800/D7000 with Nikon DX 35mm f/1.8 lens. Exposure: f/4.0 2.0s ISO 1600.


katk said...

this is great information to know - thank you so much for posting!

katk said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
playray91 said...

Is this 35mm 1.8 the D or G? and also does this Vignette look like this on prime lenses and look different on zoom lenses. Just asking bcuz i have seen some ppls images that have the vignette in it and it doesnt look good.

playray91 said...

Is this 35mm 1.8 the D or G? and also does this Vignette look like this on prime lenses and look different on zoom lenses. Just asking bcuz i have seen some ppls images that have the vignette in it and it doesnt look good.

Unknown said...

The lens used in this post is the DX 35mm 1.8 G. It is a DX lens, made for a crop sensor camera. On the D800, a camera with a full frame sensor, it vignettes a little but IMO, is still acceptable for many shots. Prime lenses or zoom lenses made for FX cameras (full frame sensors) will NOT vignette.

Anonymous said...


I have a D800 and love it, but never put one of my DX lens on it until today. Coincidentally, it was the 35mm 1.8.

I then googled for "DX lens on a D800", because it was obvious that either my camera was "special", or I have been told a bunch of lies about DX lenses on FX cameras.

That's how I found your site.

I was initially expecting a somewhat circular image that I could maybe use for creative purposes, but instead found vignetting much like yours. I'm not afraid to slap a polarizer on a wide angle, so I don't feel a reason to sell my DX lenses now.

I'm going to try my Tamron 17-50 2.8 on it... brb

Wow... That is closer to what I expected. It's obvious in the viewfinder, and since the D800 is such a harsh judge of lenses, the Tamron will stay on my D5100 where it takes great shots.

I'm guessing now that it's the DX 35mm 1.8 that is "special". Perhaps Nikon designed it as an FX, but because of the vignetting, sold it as a DX.

Unknown said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment. I believe in trying everything and many times I end up with great images simply by experimenting. You could by right about the DX 35mm 1.8 being "special" but I'll be doing more experiments with different lenses.

I've already tried the Nikon DX 10.5mm fisheye and I've had mixed results. I wish the lens hood wasn't permanently attached because it looks like you could get a much greater field of view without it.

Unknown said...

Wheh using the cropping alternative, will it produce smaller RAW files as well?

Unknown said...

Yes, the cropped files on the D800 are smaller.

georgia b. said...

will i be able to achieve the same results with my dx 50mm/1.4?... a bigger crop with some vignetting around the edge?

also, is it still worth it for me to invest in the d800 even though that dx lens is my only lens for the time being? to accommodate for the smaller crop, would just getting further out from the subject to include more of the shot still help me because the image quality will be better given that it is on the d800 as opposed to my old d40? in other words, is the trade off that i'll have {until i can afford a new lens too} worth it?

Unknown said...

If you don't need a full frame, 36 megapixel camera, I would suggest Nikon's D7100, which is less than half the cost of the D800, and will still deliver amazing, 24 megapixel images.